The newly released mobile game Mole’s World has topped the free download chart on the App Store in China for a week since its release on June 1, beating Tencent games Honor of Kings and Peacekeeper Elite.
Created by Chinese video game developer Taomee Entertainment, Mole’s World is a simulation game in which players can build manors, play mini-games, collect treasures, interact with others and unlock new stories by completing daily tasks. The mobile game is a derivative of the web version originally released in 2008.
The PC version, Mole Manor, was targeted towards children aged 7 to 14, with a main audience belonging to Generations Y and Z. Inspired by the popular American multiplayer game Club Penguin, Mole Manor was dedicated to creating interactive online communities for children and quickly gained popularity in a market remained largely untapped by forerunners.
By the end of 2009, it had garnered over 50 million registered users and 30 million active accounts. In 2010, the company had a net profit of $21.6 million, and filed for an IPO with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, reaching a market value of $300 million dollars. However, the game ceased all updates in 2014 following a fallout of the creating team and ended up delisting from the NYSE in 2016.
The new mobile version is said to have been developed by the same team that created the original web version and is issued by Leiting Games, a subsidiary of G-bits Network Technology (Xiamen) Co., Ltd. Apart from specific alterations to plots and scenes, the mobile game has also incorporated an updated 3D view.
Eliciting excitement from the generation familiar with Mole Manor, the recent release of Mole’s World mobile game generated a feverish response. The game reaped a user growth of 6 million within the first eight hours of its release. Flaunting 250,000 average daily downloads, it has remained on top of the App Store’s free download chart for eight consecutive days in China, beating wildly popular Tencent games Honor of Kings and Peacekeeper Elite.
G-bits saw a 25% weekly increase in its stock price as a result of the game’s release, with its market value now sitting at around 41 billion yuan ($6.4 billion).
The “Mole’s World” tag on Weibo currently has over 153,000 discussions and 316,000 followers, ranking first in activity in the mobile game category. Many former players of the original web version contributed to the frenzy, exclaiming that their “childhood has come back”.
Despite its surge in popularity, the renewed mobile version has also been met with disappointed comments. Even among those familiar with the web version, many lament that the game is not merely committed to recreating the original user experience. A college student remarked that “it has played the nostalgia card alright, but its optimization is poor”.
“The game design barely echoes the original version, and graphics are shoddy. There are very limited interactive elements…it looks like a product perfunctorily put together to publish in time for Children’s Day,” another commented. “It’s a bit like Animal Crossing, but way less fun.”
Other reactions include criticism of its substandard socializing functions, long processing time, unnecessary guidance and a dissociation of currencies within the game designed to encourage user spending. The appeal seems even smaller for new players who have no experience with the original version. “I downloaded the game to make up for a loss of childhood memories with high expectations. But without the nostalgic sentiments, the game itself is bland and tedious,” one new player said.
In fact, similar concerns were already encountered years ago by the PC version, contributing to its eventual withdrawal from the market. Vice President of Taomee Zheng Zhouli said in an interview that the two main reasons for Mole Manor’s retreat were a lack of core gameplay features and stable profit model.
Currently, the mobile game generates profit from user subscriptions and in-app purchases. It has been reported that Taomee and Leiting will continue to expand the range of products under the Mole’s World IP and invest resources and efforts into areas including animation, film, short video and blind boxes, in the hopes of exploring more sustainable profit models.